ATLANTA (AP) — Parts of the U.S. South and Midwest braced for flooding and possible tornadoes Monday following a weekend of deadly torrents and powerful winds that claimed at least 15 lives.
Heavy rain caused the roof of a furniture store in northern Oklahoma to collapse early Monday, although no one was injured, and parts of the state remained under flood and flash flood warnings after excessive rainfall over the weekend. The Illinois River that snakes through the eastern part of the state crested Sunday night at about 29 feet — well above major flood stage of 18 feet.
Tornado warnings were issued for parts of southeastern Alabama and central Georgia on Monday morning by the National Weather Service, which advised residents there to take cover. A severe thunderstorm located over Fort Benning in Georgia was at risk for developing into a twister, the weather service said.
Severe weather was expected elsewhere in the South. Parts of the Florida Panhandle could be affected by severe thunderstorms or high winds and dangerous rip currents. In Mississippi, a wind advisory was in effect in the northwest. A flood warning was in effect for rivers in Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Over the weekend, tornadoes hit several small towns in East Texas, killing four people. Flooding and winds killed five people in Arkansas, including a fire chief who was struck by a vehicle while working during the storm.
Three deaths were reported in Missouri, including a woman who drowned after rushing water swept away a car and a 78-year-old man who left his home to look at the floodwaters and was then carried away by the water. One of two deaths in Mississippi included a 7-year-old who was electrocuted after unplugging an electric golf cart and dropping the cord in water on the ground. A 2-year-old girl died in Tennessee after being struck by a soccer goal post thrown by heavy winds.
The storms rolled through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama on Sunday with strong winds causing isolated pockets of damage.
Middle Tennessee was hit by a strong line of storms that knocked down trees and power lines earlier Sunday. Wind and flood advisories were in effect for much of the state Monday.
Flooding closed part of Interstate 44 near Hazelgreen, Missouri, and officials expected it would be at least a day before the highway reopened. Interstate 70 in western Kansas was closed because crews were waiting for snow falling at 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 centimeters) an hour being blown by 35 mph (56 kph) winds to subside.
Near Clever in southwestern Missouri, a man tried to save his 72-year-old wife from floodwaters that swept away their vehicle Saturday, but her body was found when the water receded, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said.
In Texas, search teams were going door to door Sunday after the tornadoes the day before flattened homes, uprooted trees and flipped several pickup trucks at a Dodge dealership in Canton.
“It is heartbreaking and upsetting to say the least,” Canton Mayor Lou Ann Everett told reporters at a news conference Sunday morning.
The storms cut a path of destruction 35 miles (56 kilometers) long and 15 miles (24 kilometers) wide in Van Zandt County, Everett said. The largely rural area is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Dallas.
The National Weather Service found evidence of four tornadoes with one twister possibly on the ground for 50 miles (80 kilometers).
The first reports of tornadoes came about 4:45 p.m. Saturday, but emergency crews were hampered by continuing severe weather, said Judge Don Kirkpatrick, the chief executive for Van Zandt County.
“We’d be out there working and get a report of another tornado on the ground,” he said.
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